Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
“A Louis XV ormolu-mounted blue and gilt Vernis Martin bureau en pente. By Pierre IV Migeon, circa 1735-40, the vernis decoration attributed to the Martin Frères. Estimate: £120,000-180,000
The brothers Guillaume and Etienne-Simon Martin were vernisseurs; they worked in lacquer and painted decoration. They had enormous success imitating the lacquer that was coming out of China and Japan, which they produced both for clients and for cabinet makers, becoming so good at it that this style became known as vernis Martin — what we call ‘Japanning’ in English.
This stunning blue bureau is incredibly contemporary — it reminds me of Yves Klein blue — and yet is an early example of the Rococo style, made around 1737. It’s very rare to see this colour in European japanning — it didn’t exist in oriental lacquer and was rarely produced in Europe. So while this bureau is inspired by the Far East it’s very much a European interpretation of ‘chinoiserie’. Only a handful like this are known of and they very rarely come up for auction, so it’s as collectible as it is decorative.”
That was from two years ago. In case you’re wondering, it made 254 thousand. And the Giacometti from the other day made just under 25 million.
Isn’t the blue just marvellous?
And here’s Aubade by Larkin – I just love that word, aubade.
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
And finally a most wonderful Chet Baker in Belgium in 1964